Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them.
Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.
It seems many of us find ourselves caught between two tensions. As Christ followers, we do not want to be divisive or pick unnecessary fights. We also do not want to stay on the sidelines of important discussions and allow our voices to be muted by threats or intimidation. Wisdom says to choose your battles carefully. Zeal says to win every debate, regardless of the relational costs.
My entire adult life, I’ve seen myself as a defender of the poor, the widow, and the marginalized. Thirty years ago, I was leading teams into violent neighborhoods, making friends with people who mistrusted me, and helping widows find friendship and comfort on streets that were no longer safe for their grandchildren to play. Today, I enjoy leading tense discussions on the plight of the immigrant and helping bridge the divide between those with much and the forgotten. Justice and fairness are non-negotiables for me.
I’m also a pastor, so I have little interest in constant or unwarranted friction with people. I’ve learned the value of peace and I truly desire unity and abhor divisiveness, especially in my own soul. I take the above passage from Titus literally and seriously. The more I’m led by the Holy Spirit, the more He leads me to make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4).
We all must learn to live in between these worlds. We should never, ever stay silent when any form of power uses that power to oppress or suffocate those who cannot help themselves. Defend the weak and the fatherless; uphold the cause of the poor and the oppressed. We cannot allow our comfort to become an idol that tames us and leads us away from the cries of the needy.
At the same time, it’s possible to pursue justice and stop being Jesus followers. He taught us how to be angry without sinning. When oppressive powers threatened him, he did not take up the sword, but chose a cross. He was not being passive or indifferent to the suffering of his people. He was showing them a radical new way of bringing change. He protested by giving up his rights and his life.
2000 years later, the Roman Empire is a dusty relic of long ago, and Jesus has caused the greatest social changes in history. Women have been set free from misogyny because of Jesus. Slave empires have crumbled because Jesus went to that cross. Generosity has erupted, schools have been opened, orphanages have been built and hospitals have been filled. All because Jesus was not silent, but chose a better way.